Synopsis: Each year on Nov. 11 we remember and celebrate “the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.” Remembrance Day is a time to pay respect to the sacrifices brave soldiers have made for our country. In observation The Reel Guys have compiled a list of movies to serve as a backdrop on this solemn day.
Richard: Mark, the first war-themed film to really make an impression on me was The Best Years Of Our Lives. When I was a kid I watched it on television every November and although it’s almost 70 years old the story of servicemen struggling to rebuild their lives after the Second World War is still timely and relevant. Perhaps it feels so authentic because the crew were all Second World War veterans and the main character, who faces discrimination after losing both hands in combat, was played by real-life disabled vet Harold Russell.
Mark: Don’t know the movie, Richard. I grew up in a family of cowards and war movies were forbidden. And I don’t know who said it — probably not Snooki — that “all great war movies are anti-war movies.” That being said, I like the P.O.W. genre, with incarcerated soldiers plotting to get out. The Bridge On the River Kwai is one of the greatest, with a fine performance by Alec Guiness, but let’s also include The Great Escape with Steve McQueen, and a left-field choice, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence starring David Bowie. Waaaay left-field, Richard, if you get my drift.
RC: War films come in all shapes and sizes. If P.O.W. movies are your thing check out The Hill, a little known British film that features one of Sean Connery’s best performances. Set during the Second World War in North Africa, it’s the story of a stockade run by Brits to punish deserters. Connery wedged it in between Goldfinger and Thunderball and it is a stark contrast to the work he was doing in the Bond films at the time. As for your second thought, which I suspect should be attributed to Steven Spielberg and not Snooki, two films pop to mind. Saving Private Ryan and the First World War drama All Quiet on the Western Front. Both are masterfully made films that show the brutal reality of war from the point of view of the soldiers.
MB: I’ve seen The Hill. It’s great. But the best anti-war movie might be Johnny Got His Gun, a minimalist squirmer told from the point of view of a blind, mute quadruple amputee. Fun times! And as far as soldiers on the ground, I would nominate Black Hawk Down, or Platoon, both of which put you right in the centre of a battle you may not be winning.
RC: We can’t talk about war films so close to Remembrance Day without paying tribute to Canadian soldiers on screen. Paul Gross’s Passchendaele is probably our best-known homegrown look at Canadians in battle but Hollywood has never shied away from depicting fighting Canadians. Canuck heroes are portrayed in the Devil’s Brigade, The Battle of Britain and Attack on the Iron Coast among many others.
MB: Yes, Canadians excel in battle. Canadians also excel at harbouring war resisters, but I’ve yet to see THAT movie.